Date: 08/04/2024

MEIA calls for increased transparency and accountability - 2024

The Malta Entertainment & Arts Association (MEIA) together with MEIA’s Visual Arts Advisory Committee welcomes the organisation of a large-scale biennial across the Maltese Islands. This initiative resonates with the vision which MEIA proposed during the stakeholder’s consultation of the Malta Tourism Strategy 2021 – 2030, highlighting the unique potential of our island as a dynamic platform for Contemporary Art Tourism which aligns to our vision for quality tourism.

The historical roots of Malta’s biennials stretch back a number of years, when this year’s was announced as the “first biennale”; many were surprised at this miscommunication classifying this event as the first of its kind.

The lack of consultation, clarity and transparency with which the organisers went about this event was felt from the start. There was no consultation with MEIA nor with the wider artistic community, underscoring a recurring theme of disconnect between the event’s organisers and the art scene in Malta.

When the event was initially announced, questions from MEIA members either went unanswered or the reply given was to address others. This happened when people in the industry reached out to Heritage Malta, Arts Council Malta and Muza, highlighting a lack of communication and coordination among important partners, with some not being able to answer questions about what the event entailed.

The’s ambitious scale was evident from the onset. However, its execution stumbled early with a call for artists that offered no financial remuneration or clear curatorial direction. This initial misstep was corrected with a subsequent call that included a production fee, yet scepticism remained due to the absence of an announced artistic director or curator, which raised questions about who actually created the curatorial concept if no curator or artistic director was engaged.  

As the artists’ and pavilions’ selection process unfolded, extensive delays left artists and national pavilions with only four months in which to carry out the work, with numerous concerns raised on delays of contracts and space allocation, and low personnel involved in the organisational procedures. Further to that, once artists were selected some were told by Heritage Malta of extensive budget cuts of the production fee set to them, adding to the mounting concerns over clarity and stability.

Next came a divergence from the initial curatorial concept which highlighted a disjointed planning process: artists who applied under the initial curatorial call found out that the curatorial concept of the main exhibition at the Grand Masters Palace  was completely changed and therefore the artworks that artists had applied with became completely irrelevant.  

The absence of open calls for critical roles such as artistic director, curators, service providers and local professionals denied valuable opportunities to contribute to a national project. 

While we appreciate the hard work and effort of the curatorial team in implementing the first edition of the and attracting renowned international artists to the island, the lack of proper research, holistic vision, transparency in selection processes, and organisational professionalism by Heritage Malta has been widely felt in the sector as a missed opportunity.

Additionally, MEIA seeks to understand if and how MICAS, which MEIA highly believes is setting a benchmark for contemporary art in Malta, was consulted or had any involvement in advisory roles in Not incorporating MICAS would highlight a missed opportunity for meaningful collaboration for a national project of such importance in the contemporary art sector. 

With a substantial amount of over €1,700,000 allocated towards organising this event in the government’s budget 2024, the choice to set a high entrance fee of €35 per person, for a ticket which lasts only 5 days has sparked debate about accessibility and inclusivity, particularly for local families. This ticket even exceeds the rates of a ticket to attend the Venice Biennale, which is renowned to be the most prestigious contemporary art event in the world. The fact that the tickets have now been reduced to half price not only makes it unfair to the people who have already bought the tickets at a higher rate, but continues to underline the lack of strategy and research conducted for the creation of this national event.

This financial decision, alongside the event’s ambitions to position Malta as a contemporary art destination, invites scrutiny over the allocation of resources and the overarching strategy to integrate and elevate the local arts scene within this global platform. 

MEIA’s call for transparency, accountability, and a comprehensive inclusion plan underscore a broader critique of biennales globally. The sentiment highlighted in a recent Spectator article points out the organisers’ lack of expertise, noting:

As Malta aspires to distinguish itself within the international art world, it must heed the lessons of the focus on genuine collaboration, ditch the political monopolisation of the event, strive for transparent communication, and commit to creating a powerful dialogue with the local arts community. 

Moving forward, it’s crucial that we learn from this experience and collectively strive to enhance the inclusivity of the local art community and organisational standards of such events. 

As MEIA, we once again make ourselves available to public entities as a supportive partner. We stress that we are here to assist, not criticise, and this core principle should be taken into consideration.

MEIA remains committed to fostering dialogue and advocating for a that reflects the values and aspirations of Malta’s local contemporary art community in collaboration with international partners, placing it as a reputable event in the art world.

MEIA's Calls for Action:

  • Transparency and Consultation: MEIA calls for full transparency in the selection process and urges Heritage Malta to engage in meaningful consultation with stakeholders in future endeavours.
  • Lack of Research and Strategy: The showed a lack of research and strategy on how to organise and implement such an event. We call on Heritage Malta, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government, and the Ministry for Tourism and Public Cleanliness to publish the research conducted and documentation in relation to this event for which €1,7000,000 have been allocated. 
  • Budget Transparency: MEIA demands transparency and public disclosure of all budget allocations, and agreements made with service providers and professionals without a public call.
  • Alignment of Curatorial Concept and Fairness in selection process: We advocate for fairness and integrity in the tendering processes, open calls and artist selection process, addressing concerns of transparency.
  • MEIA calls for an explanation on who created the first curatorial concept when a curator was not yet engaged and the selection criteria for artists who applied through a different curatorial call for the Grand Master’s Palace exhibit. 
  • Miscommunication in this being Malta’s First Biennale: MEIA calls for better and non-misleading communication, which can undermine the history of biennials in Malta through time.
  • Inclusion and reinvestment in the local art community: MEIA emphasises the importance of including and planning the integration of the local art community independent from the public sector within national events like this, where a holistic vision of the artistic scene is taken into account and respected.

Photo credits: Maltarti

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow us

Stay up to date with the latest news and updates on our social channels.

Photo Credits: Albert Camilleri